One of the more interesting aspects of the NFL off-season to me is analyzing each individual position and then determining whether or not that particular position is in need of an upgrade.
So far, the Dallas Cowboys have done a pretty good job of filling holes through free agency, and with maybe the exception of defensive end and backup quarterback, there really aren't any glaring needs to be addressed.
It seems as if a lot of focus has been placed on improving the secondary and figuring out the running back position, but I think another position could possibly be in need of an upgrade. We all witnessed firsthand last season, when Dez Bryant went down with an injury, exactly what the wide receiver position looks like, and I think we can all agree that we were left wanting more.
Bryant should be fully healthy and ready to go once the off-season activities kick off, but what about the rest of the receivers currently on the roster?
Let's take a look at the depth chart as I see it:
|1. Dez Bryant||6'2", 220 lbs.|
|2. Terrance Williams||6'2", 208 lbs.|
|3. Cole Beasley||5'8", 180 lbs.|
|4. Brice Butler||6'3", 215 lbs.|
|5. Devin Street||6'3", 200 lbs.|
|6. Lucky Whitehead||5'9", 163 lbs.|
|7. Vince Mayle||6'2", 224 lbs.|
|8. Rodney Smith||6'5", 220 lbs.|
Obviously, Bryant is the #1 wide receiver on this team and a top 10 player at his position. It would probably be wise to take things slowly at first once OTAs and training camp is underway, just to make sure that he is fully recovered from his off-season foot surgery. There is no question about his status with the team or if he will be ready to go once the 2016 season kicks off.
Williams is the #2 wide receiver for the Cowboys, but his inconsistencies have been frustrating. Some games it looks as if he has finally put everything together, whereas others it looks as if he forgot that he was even on the field. Williams is in the last year of his rookie contract and the Cowboys could be looking for someone to challenge him for that #2 wide receiver spot.
Cole Beasley found a role for himself in the slot and to me has locked down that #3 spot on the depth chart. I don't think he has to worry about his job because he has earned the trust of the coaching staff and Tony Romo. He has also proven himself to be a mismatch for opposing defenses, often times being the main target to convert in those third-down situations.
Brice Butler could possibly benefit the most from a full off-season working with a healthy Tony Romo, and as things stand now I have him slated as the #4 wide receiver. Butler showed flashes last season that he can be the deep threat that this team has been without for what seems like forever. He has natural hands to catch the ball away from his body and the speed to run past opposing corner backs. Look for Butler to challenge Williams for that #2 receiver spot if the Cowboys decide not to address the position through the draft.
Devin Street's time with the Cowboys should probably come to an end. He hasn't been able to prove he deserves playing time and the fact that he doesn't contribute on special teams could mean he's playing for a different team in 2016. Personally, I've seen enough of Street that I'm comfortable saying it's time to move on.
Lucky Whitehead is an intriguing player because he can be a dangerous weapon in the open field, but because of his short stature he is best suited to play out of the slot, a position Cole Beasley has a firm grasp on. Like Street, Whitehead could be the low man on the totem pole if the Cowboys decide to draft a receiver, but because he could be the Cowboys main return man, he has a better chance to earn a roster spot.
Vince Mayle and Rodney Smith have the size that the Cowboys seem to covet in receivers, but they could be nothing more than camp bodies and would have a long uphill battle to even earn a spot on the practice squad.
A drafted rookie receiver just knocks them down another spot on the depth chart and all but eliminates them from making the team.
So, as you can see the Cowboys will more than likely try to upgrade the position through the draft and there are several players that could be of interest to them. It all depends on what round they choose to draft a receiver.
If the Cowboys do decide to draft a receiver, who do you want to see wearing a star on their helmet in 2016?
Cowboys Sign WR Devin Smith, Former 2nd-Round Pick
The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly signed Receiver Devin Smith, previously with the New York Jets, to a futures contract. Smith was a 2nd-round pick, 37th overall, in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Before going pro, Devin was a college teammate of current Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, and Noah Brown. They were all members of the 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes team that won the National Championship.
Smith's agent, Jason Bernstein, tweeting the following earlier today:
Congrats to WR Devin Smith @dsmithosu for signing with the #DallasCowboys! Welcome back. https://t.co/hCMYoE8fEh
Thus far, Smith's NFL career has been marred by injuries. He has suffered two ACL tears in the same knee and only been able to appear in 14 games. He was waived by the Jets last summer and was not with any team last season.
Overall, the 2015 class of receivers has been disappointing. Amari Cooper has been a star and other later-round picks like Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder have been good. But the other big names of the class, such as Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, and DeVante Parker, have not lived up to the hype.
The Cowboys are known for trying to reclaim players who once had high draft status and bad starts to their careers. They are clearly hoping to cash in on Smith's previously perceived potential, which had him projected as a possible first-round talent at one time.
For both Devin and Dallas' sake, we hope it's a success!
DeMarcus Lawrence Named Top Free Agent Of The 2019 Class
Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agent class. Dallas has a ton of cap space moving forward, but they are going to "have" to pay many of the key players on their roster over the next two offseasons in order to keep their young core together.
Of course, when you're drafting, that's the goal. To draft so well that when your own players become free agents, you go ahead and pay them to keep them around, rather than overpay on the free agent market for external players.
One of the major pieces the Cowboys will have to retain this offseason is defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. And while Cowboys Nation often thinks of Lawrence as underrated around the league, the NFL has caught onto his importance as he enters free agency this Spring.
ESPN.com ranked their top 10 free agents for 2019, with DeMarcus Lawrence clocking in at number one, over elite players like Jadeveon Clowney and Le'Veon Bell.
ESPN's top 10 free agents for 2019 and what Le'Veon Bell should be looking to command based on previous measures. https://t.co/aJ7H1n001t
DeMarcus Lawrence is going to command big time money, likely even Khalil Mack-type money. But the fact of the matter is that he has earned it. Lawrence has been the heart and soul of the Cowboys defensive line the last two seasons, and the most consistent edge player on the team as well.
Not only has he been an effective pass rusher, but DeMarcus Lawrence also plays with a relentless motor against the run that can sometimes be rare to find in those premier pass rushers. He really is a jack of all trades at defensive end, and should be priority number one for the Cowboys this offseason.
Thankfully, I can't imagine the Cowboys not retaining DeMarcus Lawrence and extending him in the coming months.
When it Mattered Most, Cowboys Offensive Line Protected Dak Prescott
Throughout the 2018 NFL season, one of the major story lines surrounding the Dallas Cowboys was how frequently Dak Prescott was taking sacks. It's an area that the Cowboys will have to look at in the offseason to better protect their franchise quarterback moving forward. In the playoffs, however, Dak Prescott and the offensive line were much better at keeping their prized possession upright than they were in the regular season.
In the regular season, Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times for an average of 3.5 times a game. There was only one game where he wasn't sacked at all, way back in week two against the New York Giants. Four times this season, the Cowboys' quarterback was sacked five or more times. The New Orleans Saints got him for a season high seven times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dak was "kept clean" -- not pressured -- on 63% of his drop backs during the regular season, which ranked 25th in the NFL. When kept clean, Prescott completed 74.1% of his passes, which was good for 5th in the NFL during the regular season. He was under pressure 37% of the time, which was the sixth highest rate in the NFL and his completion percentage dropped to 52.6%, still good for 10th in the NFL. It was better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, and Baker Mayfield.
During the playoffs, Prescott's "kept clean" percentage rose from 63% to 68% and he was only sacked once in each game. The one sack against the Los Angeles Rams probably shouldn't have been called a sack as the referee blew the whistle because Prescott was "in the grasp"...
...of his offensive lineman.
During the playoffs, the Cowboys offensive line kept the pressure off of Prescott at a better rate, allowing him to be pressured on only 31.9% of his drop backs. Meaning he was kept clean at an improved rate from the regular season at 68.1% of his drop backs. This while playing against two teams that are really good at rushing the passer. The Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks both finished in the top half of the league in sacks this season and feature players like Aaron Donald, Jarran Reed, and Frank Clark who all had double-digit sacks.
As we know, pressure rates and sacks aren't all completely on the offensive line. The quarterback, wide receivers, and the play calling all factor in, but the Cowboys are trending in the right direction with their pass protection. A full offseason for Connor Williams in the Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning program, better health for Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and -- fingers crossed -- Travis Frederick, should all help the offensive line play at a higher level heading into the 2019 season.
It can't be overstated how important it will be to get Travis Frederick back into the fold this season. Joe Looney was good, and that might be overstating it a bit. He was not noticeable on most plays during the season, but getting your All-Pro center back will tremendously help the offense in every facet of the game. Frederick's one of the smarter players in the NFL, who helps everyone on the offense to see the blitzes and calls out the protections. Both his mental and physical ability will be a welcomed site when the Cowboys begin practicing in the offseason.
With another year of growth for the quarterback and for the young pieces along the offensive line, and with a full offseason for Dak Prescott to grow with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and Blake Jarwin, the Cowboys should be better next season at keeping the quarterback clean.
Star Blog1 week ago
Should Tavon Austin’s Role Get Expanded Against His Former Team?
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
5 Potential Candidates Cowboys Could Target to Replace OC Scott Linehan
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Texas Forever? Kris Richard Appears Closer to Staying with Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys3 days ago
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
What’s Next for Cowboys Coaching Staff After Divisional Round Loss?
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
Top 5 Offseason Priorities for the Dallas Cowboys
Player News2 weeks ago
Allen Hurns Injury: Status, 2019 Prospects, Teammate Reactions
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
It’s Time To Stop Doubting the Dallas Cowboys